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Opposition-Sponsored Strike Shuts Down Bangladesh


In Bangladesh, the political opposition has called a general strike shutting down much of the country Saturday. The Awami League called the strike after a senior leader and four other people were killed by a grenade attack at a party rally.

Streets in the usually crowded capital city of Dhaka were virtually deserted as schools and businesses shut down at the start of a three-day strike called by the main opposition party, the Awami League.

Riot police patrolled main intersections and troops barricaded the downtown headquarters of the Awami League as hundreds of angry demonstrators chanted anti-government slogans.

There were sporadic clashes between opposition activists and police.

Life was also paralyzed in other towns. In several places, opposition supporters blockaded trains, disrupting rail traffic.

The Awami League called the nationwide strike after its former finance minister, Shah A.M.S. Kibria, was killed on Thursday in a grenade attack on a party rally. This is the latest in a series of violent incidents over the last year and a half in which scores of people have been killed or wounded.

Six months ago, Awami League leader and former prime minister, Sheik Hasina, survived an attack similar to the one that occurred Thursday.

Sheik Hasina has accused the government of involvement. Her political secretary, Saber Hossain Chowdhury, says the attacks are deliberately designed to eliminate senior opposition leaders.

"This is not one incident; this has been happening continually,” she said. “We have now lost two members of parliament over the space of eight months, and this has happened in constituencies, in regions, in districts where the Awami League has a very strong organizational base. It's elimination; it is political cleansing."

The government denies the charges as "emotional outpourings" and has ordered an investigation into the latest blast.

But concern is rising both in and outside Bangladesh. The United States has condemned the latest violence and called on the Bangladesh government to identify and prosecute those responsible for political terrorism. The European Union has also expressed concern at what it calls the apparent failure to properly investigate previous attacks.

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